Lawyer, Indigenous rights, Educator, Author
Sherri Mitchell is a new friend this past year who brings me peace and wisdom by putting the Covid pandemic, just befalling us when this was recorded in April 2020, in a deeper time perspective. This conversation was part of the April 2020 CoVida conversation series.
So often Indigenous people teach through stories. Sherri offered the one about the first illness.
There was a time when the children of the earth, the youngest species, fell out alignment with the rest of creation and lost our compassion. We lost our capacity to hear the voices of the plants and animals, the wind, waters and soil. The plants and animals joined in council and decided humans needed to feel again the consequences of their actions, and so gave us illness to teach us.
After a long time, and much suffering for humans, the plants and animals decided to bring them back into the circle to relearn the Mother tongue, the language of Mother Earth, and to offer humans their medicines.
Sherri says it’s a story of this time, and the illness is Covid-19. The teacher has arrive and we have to decide if we are ready for the lesson.
All life is connected
In the beginning, and at the end, of prayers, Native American say, “Mitakuye Oyasin”. It means “All my relations.” It is the essential reality, what I call “a relational world”. Everything thing is in relationship with every other thing. It can’t be otherwise. Sherri told a story of the first man and woman. The man is a pool unrealized potential in all matter. The feminine spoke words into that pool and matter awoke and she spoke until all life is created. Once the seed of all life is awakened, she sings and life burst forth into the whole universe.
We are all connected to the web of life. From the virus’s point of view, all humanity is one. Physics talks about quantum entanglement – the same essential truth. It tells us is that any matter that was once connected physically cannot be separated energetically.
Through Sherri and these generous teaching stories I am aware that humans can return to what the Lakota taught me to call the Original Instructions, the silent and generous elder brothers and sisters, the trees and plants and water and air. Healing will not come through lurching forward and inventing once again out of our immature human consciousness, but through leaning back into the community of life that will welcome us back without question.
See all the CoVida Conversations from April 2020 here.
Transcript of Sherri and Vicki’s conversation:
Vicki Robin 0:01 (+ 31 secs to time stamps)
Okay, hi, everybody. Another CoVida: the COVID conversation. I call it CoVida because we’re all in this together. It’s life together. This is part of my series of conversations with people I consider to be wise elders of the movement for a more resilient, sustainable future. I’m talking today to Sherri Mitchell. She will introduce herself but the question that I’m posing Sherri is – to everybody I mean – I want to read your signature in your email as a sort of setup. “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, unless it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” So it really keys into what is the good that is arising in this co-vida, you know? This life we’re sharing, the sort of one body of humanity. The virus doesn’t recognize any differences. We’re all just one human body. What are the things that you’re noticing that we can anchor in language or ideas or policies that we can carry with us through the pandemic and post, so really to see if these ideas can root for the future so that’s the general territory. And over to you, Sherri.
Sherri Mitchell 1:43
Actually, I want to thank you very much, Vicki. Hello… So my name is Sherri Mitchell. My name in my language Weh‚Äôna Ha‚Äômu Kwasset is from the Penobscot Nation. And my family is Bear Clan from the Penobscot Nation and Crow Clan from the Passamaquoddy Tribe. I’m very happy and honored to be with you, having this conversation today because it’s so nice to see your face and to think about where we were one year ago. We were convened in the Adirondacks to talk about the possibility of this very thing. Whether it was going to be an ecological crisis, an economic crisis, some type of natural disaster or another collapse. We were called together to start thinking about how do we prepare our networks for an inevitable collapse. And here we are one year later having this conversation from isolation within our own homes as a result of multiple collapses occurring simultaneously.
So it’s just this really interesting time for us to come back together one year later, to have this conversation.
There’s a story in our mythology about the first illness and that story tells us that the children of the earth, who are the youngest species, the human beings, have fallen out of alignment with the rest of creation, that we have lost our compassion for other beings within the natural world, that we have lost our ability to communicate with the animals. We’ve lost our ability to hear the tiny voices of the plants and the trees, and that we’ve begun behaving in ways that are causing harm and destruction to other species and other living beings on the earth. And so the animals try to approach us and they try to bring us back in into alignment, and because we stopped having the ability to be able to understand the animals, we don’t heed their warning. And the plants try to communicate with us, but we tune out the tiny voices of the plants and the trees and the waters and the wind and the soil, and so we can’t hear them calling us back into alignment with the umbilical of life. So after there was a number of years of destruction, the animals went into council together and they decided that humans needed to understand that there were direct consequences for their behavior. They decided to give human beings illness, to teach them of the consequences of their behavior. And human beings began to become ill. They began to die. And the plants and the trees were watching all of this suffering for a long period of time and they went into council together and decided that if the human beings would come back to the earth, would relearn the language of the plants and the trees, relearn their mother tongue, the language of Mother Earth, and they asked them for help, that the plants and the trees would give them the medicines that they needed in order to survive the illness that had been given to them.
This is a story that I grew up listening to. It’s a story that my grandparents grew up listening to for generations, and here we are living that reality of that story right now. We have this disease. Not disease, but this virus; this illness that has come to us through the animals and no allopathic medicine has been able to touch it. The only thing that’s offering any hope for people is traditional plant-based medicine. It’s the medicine of the earth that is going to give us what we need in order to survive this illness that was given to us by the earth, by the other beings of the earth, to help us to realize that we have fallen out of alignment with the flow of life.
Right now we’re living in this moment where the teacher has arrived, and we have to decide if we are ready for the lesson, because this is only the first of many such events that are coming toward us if we don’t quickly change the way that we’re living. So I think about this one elder, her name was Matilda who – my friend Ron, who’s the grand chief of the Wolastoq First Nation always quotes her and it’s just so poignant right now – who said, “This isn’t a story. This really happened.” She said that at the beginning of every one of our stories that she tells and so now, I’m sitting here and I’m telling you the story and I’m saying, this is not a story. This really happened. We are living this story right now. We are the embodiment of the warnings that our ancestors have provided for us about this coming time. And the way out of that is also instructive. It’s in the story that we have to reconnect ourselves with the language, with our mother tongue, the language of Mother Earth, in order to get through this time and so returning to a space of communion with the rest of life is the only thing that’s going to save us right now. None of these man-made systems which are failing all around us are going to save us right now. What we need to do is we need to begin living what we call in our language… which is this way of life in harmony with the rest of creation. So what was the other part of your question?
Vicki Robin 8:02
Yeah, what are you – it’s not where you see hope, but – where do you see evidence in this moment of humans learning the lesson? What you say, the western mind can grab onto what you say and say, “Okay, fine. How do I talk to the plants? Which plants? How do I get them to talk back to me? Can I plant them all in my yard and build a fence?” I mean, that’s the western mind. So where do you see evidence that some people are in that turning toward learning the mother tongue?
Sherri Mitchell 8:44
Well, what I think is interesting about this time, I mean, there’s evidence everywhere. I’m just finishing writing a chapter for a book about this experience, that’s going to be a rapid turnaround book, and my title is called “Exposed”. It talks about all the things that are being exposed to us at this time. So I think that people are really starting to realize that the systems that we have become dependent upon are failing us, that we really need to learn how to access our own food sources. We need to know how to access our own medicines. We need to start paying attention to the fact that people are exclaiming over being able to see the skies over China and Los Angeles right now. I’m seeing so many videos of people showing animals in their backyard, that they’re feeling safe to come out because we’re staying in. That to me is really clear evidence of the impact. So when we look at what’s going on out in the world right now, and we look at the rapidity of the changes in the earth, it gives me incredible hope. But it also is a staggering reminder of what our day to day lives are doing to the entire planet.
And so when we think about how our daily lives are impacting the rest of life, we have this moment of all of this really powerful mirroring. We have this mirroring of a respiratory illness that is actually solving the cause of most respiratory illness on the planet, right, in regard to air pollution. Air pollution, ambient air pollution is related to every single cause of death on the planet. It’s an aggravating factor for other conditions. It’s also a significant contributor, as we would expect, to respiratory illness. So this virus that’s attacking our respiratory systems is causing us to stop damaging the respiratory system of the earth.
There’s a powerful mirror in that moment, right, that we have the opportunity to see this really clearly. I think it’s also interesting that we are being forced to stay inside in order to prevent incubation of this disease. But at the same time, we have this amazing opportunity to incubate our highest, most creative intelligence; that we have the opportunity to tap into what I write about in my book called “Our Creation Song”, which is: What is our gift, our purpose that we came here to offer the rest of creation? What did we come here to? What vibration did we bring into the planet at the time of our birth that is needed right now for this symphony of life?
So, we have the opportunity to really sink in and to incubate that truth within us so that we can bring it forward as we emerge. And this is this pregnant moment of pause. It’s like, I use a metaphor “birth” in my book to talk about, we are in this stage, that’s known as the transition stage of labor, right? Where we’re just at this moment of holding before we start to push. As we are held in this moment, and we’re gathering our strength – spiritual, emotional strength, our creative intelligence, all of the things that we’re going to need to bring to bear on this moment of emergence when we birth something new. We’re having the opportunity right now to incubate all of that. And so then when we begin this pushing process, as we begin to crown this new way of being, and birth this new way of being into physical form out in the world, that we can carry with us, all of that, that has been cultivated in this time of incubation.
There’s just all of these really beautiful paradoxes and dichotomies. We in this territory, and I’m sure others in their own territories, but people from my traditional community, here and across the border, have been doing sunrise and sunset prayers. Just thinking about existing in that moment between darkness and light, in that really sweet, powerful time where we’re in the process of shifting. There’s all of this going on right now and eventually, the “guess which profession I didn’t do”, and all of these other distracting games that people are playing on social media, are going to start to lose their luster. People are going to start hopefully looking deeper within themselves, looking for more meaning, realizing the image before them is shallow, and that it is meaningless and they’re going to start seeking something that is deeper and more meaningful and purposeful to be doing with this precious time.
I noticed that the first week there were all of these comments by parents out there who are having to take responsibility for their children, for the first time, some of them. Their kids have been in childcare and in school, since they were very, very small. There was all this complaining and all of these really negative comments and a lot of sarcasm about having to be home with their children and send help and all of this other stuff. Then I’ve watched over the last three weeks as that has changed. And now we’re seeing these things being posted by parents that are just creative genius and the ways that they are adapting to this new experience of being with their family.
So you know, we’re having these experiences where we’re having to take back responsibility for all aspects of our being and for everything that we have been responsible for creating. It’s a really beautiful time, I think, for people to be really looking at how they’ve been conditioned to live; how they’ve been conditioned to live not only in relation to their families and to the earth and the rest of creation, but how have they been conditioned to live in relation to themselves. Do they know who they are? Who are they beyond all of these external labels that have been placed upon them and these expectations that have been placed upon them?
So, to me, this is a really beautiful, painful, hopeful, terrifying and blessed opportunity for us to really come home to who we are and how we’re living in the world. I just I think that when we look at healthcare, when we look at the economy… Somebody posted a meme on Facebook that I also shared, because I just thought it was hilariously funny, and we need humor at this time as well. It was a picture of dinosaurs and the meteor going over the head of the dinosaurs and the dinosaurs were saying, “Oh, shit! The economy.” Right? Like, our priorities right now are being sorted out. They’re being sorted out in a way that that we cannot escape. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, that way that we assign value. We have all of our value measures are based on economic models. When we start to think about how have we assigned value to our life, the example that I often use in some of my classes is to think about the fact that even when somebody is single, we say that they’re “on the market”. We have to start thinking about all the ways that we have fractured and commodified ourselves into small saleable pieces, so that we can start thinking about how do we flip that value structure and have the value of the sacredness of life put back on the top, and to have the quality of our lives in our relationships. We have a phrase that we say at the end of all of our prayers… And what that means is I offer this for all of my relations, understanding that we can’t be separated from anything that we contribute or ask for of life. That’s connected to one of our creation stories that frames our way of understanding our connectivity, our interdependence, our interrelationship with one another. In that story… If we have time I can tell that story.
Vicki Robin 19:17
Let’s do it because why not? This is all so beautiful. Yeah.
Sherri Mitchell 19:24
So in that story, there’s the sacred feminine – and that’s energy not gender-specific – and the sacred masculine, living in this duality beyond time and the sacred masculine is in the form of this unrealized potential, this pool of matter that is just sitting stable and waiting, and the sacred feminine approaches the sacred masculine and she begins to speak into the sacred masculine’s form, into that pool of matter. As the vibration and the frequency of her words enters into that pool of matter that makes up the sacred masculine, all form is created. And she continues to speak into the sacred masculine until that entire seed of life has been created. Once that entire seed of life has been created, and all life forms are existing within that seed, she begins to sing. As she’s singing into that seed of life, the sides of it begin to vibrate until the vibration becomes strong enough that that seed bursts and life is expanded across the known universe.
So that’s one of our creation stories that teaches us about our interrelatedness and interdependence because we all come from the same seed of life. So you see all these really quaint memes about Indigenous web of life teachings and they’re just these really shallow snippets of these little phrases. But what’s embedded within the deeper level of those teachings is what we’re really talking about, when we talk about we’re all connected to this one web of life. We’re talking about our connections throughout the universe, and the fact that we are also born of the same seed of life. That translates in in modern scientific terms, our understanding of it translates into quantum entanglement. When we think about that, what quantum entanglement tells us is that any matter that was once connected physically cannot be separated energetically.
So in our beliefs, it’s energetically and spiritually, and so we have hope that science who is now caught up to that part of the concept will eventually catch up to the spiritual aspects as well. If we want to think about that in practical terms to really help us understand what that means, we can think about somebody who’s had an amputation. They have what’s called phantom limb syndrome, and so when their leg has been amputated from the knee down, they still have sensations in their foot. Their foot still itches, or it has pain, or what have you. They call that phantom limb syndrome and they say that, “Oh, that’s nerve memory. That’s all of this stuff; muscle memory.” But what we understand through these principles of quantum entanglement in a contemporary scientific manner is that the matter that was once connected physically, can never be disconnected energetically, and for us, spiritually.
So when we think about that in relationship to the experience that we are having collectively, that everything that exists within this universe that we are occupying, is also a part of us. Right? There’s this epidemic of anxiety and panic and fear on the planet that, you know, we’ve had for years now. Say, one in three people is experiencing depression or anxiety or panic. I think it’s probably one in one; I think that probably everybody to some degree is experiencing that. People have this experience, and they go, “Oh, my gosh, what’s wrong with me?” To me, that’s evidence of something being righted within us, because in the story of the first illness where the people began to walk away from the rest of the beings in the natural world, then they lost their ability to sense and to hear and to communicate with the rest of life. What’s happening to us now is that those synapses are being reconnected.
So when we’re feeling immense grief that we can’t explain, because there’s been no triggering experience for us in our daily lives, what we’re not realizing is through quantum entanglement, that what’s happening is we’re experiencing the grief of that mother whale who carried her baby around for 17 days trying to tell us what we’re doing to their ecosystem. When we’re swamped with loneliness, even though we’re connected to people that we love, and we feel engaged with, what we’re feeling is the loneliness of the last white rhino on the planet who has no one left in their species to talk to or communicate with or be with. When we’re waking up in the middle of the night with panic, we’re experiencing what the trees in the Amazon are experiencing as they’re being burned and cut down for logging. We’re having all of these collective experiences of all of this emotional – I guess, I’ll try to think of the perfect word for it – of this emotional wave, that is evidence of the reconnection of our synapses with the synapses of life on the planet.
As we’re going through this process of experiencing all of this connectivity, something that I wrote about in my book was about this experience that I had when I was in my young 20s where I suddenly found myself – and I think this is probably in the opening chapter – where I found myself having all the boundaries of my being disappear and being connected to this larger breathing of life and realizing. Wow, we really are one living being. Then shortly after that, that lesson was cemented by me driving down the road and finding myself in this kind of judgmental state of mind because I was stuck behind a parade going to get hamburger buns for the family for a big cook out. My car was the last one to pull in, so I was the one that was sent out. So I’m being really annoyed and having this freeze frame moment where every face turned to me, every vehicle, every person on the street, and this instantaneous moment of pause, and everybody was looking back at me with my own eyes. And realizing that I’m judging myself. I am truly one living being having individualized simultaneous experiences of myself, to gain full understanding of the totality of my being.
So if that’s true, Vicki, if that’s true that we are part of one living system, then that means that Coronavirus is us. That means that we are looking into the face of our own being when we’re looking at the Coronavirus. When we’re thinking about the significance of what does this respiratory illness mean? Based on what I talked about at the beginning of our discussion, we start to see parallels and mirroring that is guiding and instructing us and giving us the opportunity to choose: Who do we want to be? Who do we most want to be? What reflection do we want to see looking back at us? How do we want to meet ourselves on the path if we truly are the other that we’re facing? That’s what this moment brings to us.
Vicki Robin 27:55
Oh, Sherri, this is so beautiful. This is a beautiful teaching. This is like coming right out of the voice of the Mother through you, to us as part of the Mother. I just am honoring your time and the time of people who are watching this. One of the two things that I want to pull out of all this gorgeousness is that phantom limb syndrome, and the word “re-member”. Like, it’s re-membering, right? So if there’s something that we carry across this great divide between what was and what will be, it is this quality of remembering. That’s what I’m feeling, is if people just could take the word “re-member” and realize. The other thing was this: If we want to participate in this remembering, to participate in the sunrise prayer – and it can just be whatever is appropriate to you – and the sunset prayer… To be able to participate with you and the people that you know across the border and the people who are in other clans and tribes and to participate in that very simple way, because the sun rises for everybody and it sets for everybody. Wherever we are, we can remember. In one brief moment, because I think this is super important, where can people get this level of wisdom from you going forward? Because I just had a transmission and I want people to have that. Are you doing videos? Are you doing blogging? Where’s the portal that we can find you?
Sherri Mitchell 29:53
Well, I have been doing weekly, what I’m calling, “conversations in the community”. Weekly webcasts on Zoom that are free to everybody. We’ve had several hundred people on each one and they’re also going to be available for viewing on my website. So my website is www.sacredinstructions.life. That’s the name of my book. I have it right here because people have been contacting me and referring to it and I have to actually look at my own book to see, What did I say? And also facebook.com/sacredinstructions And so, the past two conversations that we had which are “Adapting to a rapidly changing reality”, and then “Changing the way that we live”. There’s going to be one this Thursday on the ninth, on “Living in harmony with Mother Earth”, so looking at land-based teachings and how do we reconnect our lives.
Vicki Robin 31:03
So that’s also through that portal? Yes. Yay. Okay, we can find you. You’re not losing you by completing in this moment. That was, I mean, I felt what you said way, like way in my heart. I just felt it. I felt like through you, I was breathing more deeply with the Mother and of course, this is a breathing exercise for us.
Sherri Mitchell 31:32
So it is a breathing exercise.
Vicki Robin 31:35
Okay. So thank you so much. So much. Okay. Ciao ciao.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai